Monday, February 29, 2016
Decision making is a skill which all humans must master if they are to have a good life. The ability to make good decisions is first taught and modeled by parents, and then by the culture we grow up in which is made up of, after our parents and immediate family, media, school, friends, and church.
Our current American culture is very materialistic and we are bombarded by thousands of advertisements per day stimulating us to buy the seller's goods, services, and ideas. President George W. Bush told us that the answer to terrorism is to go shopping to keep our economy strong. The message that material acquisitions will make us happy is so pervasive that we don't even notice it any more and like a fish in water. advertising seems to be the very mental and spiritual environment that we swim in. The idea that shopping, acquiring material objects and services, is the antidote to our fears is insane and reminds me of the Old Testament story in Exodus of the golden calf which the Israelites had turned into an idol.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Dear ACIM friends:
I have heard from one of you this week and I thank that person for the email.
We are at the end of the month of February, 2016 during which our topic has been “decision making.” Next month, March, 2016, our topic will be “salvation.” If you have suggestions for a topic for April, please let me know.
On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, a blog was started entitled “Notes On The Spiritual Life” which will include more ideas than can be covered in this weekly letters. I hope you will take a look at it and, when appropriate, send articles to others and invite them to visit.
Closing up February, 2016 and the focus on decision making in this last letter of the month, I am reminded of the introduction to ACIM where it says that “It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time.” It might be concluded that the first big decision we have to make is whether we want to give up our ego drama and become more aware of Love’s presence.
It is written in Chapter Two, Section III, paragraph 3, “5 Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. 6 Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there [must] be a better way. 7 As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point. 8 This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. 9 The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which can become very acute. 10 But the outcome is as certain as God.”
In the substance abuse field, there is the idea that the person with the addiction, and/or the person in a co-dependent role with the person with the addiction, isn’t ready to make a change until (s)he hits bottom. At that point, of hitting bottom, the person, hopefully, will finally acknowledge that there must be a better way. The tolerance for pain has been very high and in hitting bottom the person with an addiction often has lost everything, marriage, family, job, driver’s license, financial stability, friends, reputation, trust, decency, even hope. The metaphorical 2 x 4 whacks the person in the head and sometimes “knocks some sense” into the person and (s)he decides it’s time to take the lessons of life seriously.
This taking life’s lessons seriously is often experienced as a “conversion experience,” and accepting the challenge of finding a better way is the biggest and most important decision of that person’s life. Most of us, perhaps, don’t have such a dramatic conversion experience, our dawning awareness is more incremental, but we finally get to a point in our lives where we realize things just aren’t working. We are stressed, depressed, angry, resentful, full of grievances and unhappy. We become aware that we can continue with our lives of quiet desperation which the ego encourages, or we can take up study of the Holy Spirit’s curriculum. We become increasingly aware that we have a choice to make.
Our choice is external materialism and the drama of the ego world, or the internal spark of the divine which we access through forgiving ourselves for our foolish mistakes and ideas. With this forgiveness of ourselves and others, we bring our wills into alignment with what we believe is God’s will for us and experience the Atonement with its joy and peace.
The key to decision making is the humility to ask the Holy Spirit, Jesus, your Higher Power for help. As it is taught in 12 step programs, the first step is to acknowledge that our life is unmanageable. The second step is to recognize that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, and step three is to ask our Higher Power for help. These are three huge decisions which transform our lives.
As Luke Skywalker would say, “May the force be with you.” Or as we have been discussing, may you ask the Force to be with you and help you with your decisions.
Til next time,
"Do you realize that the ego must set you on a journey which cannot but lead to a sense of futility and depression? To seek and not find is hardly joyous." A Course In Miracles, T-12.IV:1-2
Saturday, February 27, 2016
It is written in A Course In Miracles, "The ego is certain that love is dangerous, and this is always its central teaching." T-12.IV.1:1-4
The love that the ego considers dangerous is conditional love. I'll love you if.......... The ego knows that when it loves conditionally it is taking a chance. It is making itself vulnerable and it can get cheated, attacked, abandoned, rejected, humiliated, and ignored. In the Course it describes conditional love as "giving to get". We give in order to get something back and when the reciprocity does not occur we feel hurt and either withdraw or attack.
Conditional love is dangerous to our egos, and creates drama which we often experience as hell.
However, there is unconditional love when we love just because we want to love and put no conditions on it. This love is Holy and is an extension of God's love for us. We are just passing it through and this kind of love makes the world go round as the song says and we become one with everyone. There is nothing special in this love because it is all encompassing.
Friday, February 26, 2016
Jesus says in Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Joseph Campbell says you can choose to follow your bliss or money.
I ask young people, "If you could have a job that paid $50,000 a year that you hated or $30,000 a year that you loved, which would you choose. 80% say the $50,000 a year job. How easily Mammon seduces us into prostituting ourselves selling our souls for lucre."
God would have us chose bliss because God loves us and wishes us to be happy, but we, we are easily corrupted by the ways of the world.
This month, February, 2016, as we consider decision making on Notes On The Spiritual Life we become aware of how difficult and complicated we make our lives on the ego plane with all kinds of insane drama. The spiritual life is really very simple. Our choice is love or fear, bliss or money, the way of God or the way of Mammon. We are asked many times a day to choose in many small ways and big ways, and our responses have become so conditioned and habitual that they are often unconscious until somebody or something makes us aware of what we are deciding and choosing. These choices occur at a personal level, a family level, a community level, a state level, a national level, and an international level. Mother Teresa said one time that the United States is one of the poorest nations on earth not because we don't have money and riches, but because we have so little love for one another. A Course In Miracles says, "Remember that those who attack are poor," meaning poor in spirit.
We may feel very impotent but we always have the power to choose and make our own decision about which master we will serve, but, as is pointed out, we can't serve two masters and the devil knows how hard we try.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
In this section is written:
“I (Jesus, who is the narrator of the Course) have said you have but two emotions, love and fear. T-13.V.1:1
And then at the end of this Section V, it is written: “You have but two emotions, and one you made (fear) and one was given you (Love). Each is a way of seeing, and different worlds arise from their different sights.” T-13.V. 10:1-2
In reading this section of ACIM, especially these last two verses of the section, I am struck again about how we have a choice: to focus on and operate from fear, or to aware and appreciate what we have been given, Love.
It is written in the introduction to the Course that "It (the Course) does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance."
In living the spiritual life we clear away and avoid the drama of the ego plane which are the blocks to the awareness of love's presence. In order to do this we have to choose what we would have, fear or Love. The best way to make this choice is to gift ourselves with silence whenever possible. Silence helps us achieve perspective, objectivity, and decrease our emotional arousal so we can respond to the option before us and not just react.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
People perceive the world of reality as being outside of themselves and fail to realize that they make most of it up because of their biases, their prejudices, and their desires. Because of their implicit bias they make bad decisions. "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Are you sure this is what you really want?"
Adam's sin was not that he ate the apple but that he believed God would throw him out of the garden. God didn't throw him out at all. Adam put himself out. Eating the apple was Adam's choice and Adam ate the apple anyway knowing full well that in this decision he was choosing to separate himself from God.
Why did Adam do it? Because Adam wanted to be his own person and do his own thing. Adam wanted to be as good as, if not better, than God, who, out of love, created him. And Adam and his children have been miserable ever since living in a hell of their own making.
People, today, after all these millenia, are still choosing to do their own thing, and refusing to believe that God loves them and didn't throw them out of the garden to punish them. God would never punish His own beloved creations. It is the creations who have brought their misery of separation on themselves and could be back in heaven in the next moment if they chose to be, but they are too afraid of giving up their separate existence so they choose life on the ego plane, full of drama and all the pain that entails, rather than unification with the Ground Of Existence.
It is our stubborn self righteousness that we forego our own happiness. As it says in the Course in Miracles, "Would you rather be right or be happy?"
Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
So what is it to be, God's will or my will? All too often, I answer, and I suspect you might too, "God's will, of course, but................................................................." The fear takes over and excuses get made, and the shame and guilt grows greater in my soul.
So out of our guilt and shame we put up a false facade, pretending things are one way when deep down we know better, and to justify our inauthenticity we just make stuff up and then the pretense is so thick we don't even know what's real any more, and we even forget that our lives are just fabrications, and aren't real, and we live in fear that the whole edifice we have created can implode at any time and the jig will be up and we will be left bare naked to be attacked by sneering, jeering, critics. But then we find that there is forgiveness and mercy and compassion and laughter about our misguided foolishness, and we are relieved to remember that our tiny, mad idea to separate ourselves from God never really happened. Our lives have been nothing more than a bad dream, and we have awakened to glory being home with our Creator. It is a miracle. And this story is told in our contemporary age by a text called A Course In Miracles. And the miracle occurs when we choose to remember God and eschew the drama of the ego. It is our choice. God waits patiently with His Love. Are you ready?
The last few weeks I have been studying and working with Chapter XII in the text of A Course In Miracles which is entitled The Holy Spirit's Curriculum." I am reminded of the introduction where it is written that the Course is a required course and only the time you take it is voluntary. "Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time."
Ken Wapnick (a pioneering teacher of ACIM) has taught that the course is like a symphony with the ideas being repeated throughout the text and workbook and manual. I have found this to be true and since I have heard some themes repeated so many times, I think I am finally beginning to understand some of the metaphysics of the Course.
The first section of Chapter XII describes The Judgment Of The Holy Spirit. It is written right in the first paragraph of the first section that we should "Understand that you do not respond to anything directly, but to your interpretation of it." This makes me smile every time I read it. Comedian Flip Wilson, when he did his Geraldine routine, used to say, "What you see is what you get!" and I have modified it a bit to say, "What you THINK you see is what you get!" The Course calls this projection as well as the psychodynamically trained psychotherapists.
Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy, CBT, also is based on this idea that it is our thoughts about events and external circumstances that cause our distress not the event or circumstance itself. Is the event or circumstance a blessing or a curse. a good thing or a bad thing? It is often not possible to say until we know what happens next. The workbook of ACIM asks us in Lesson one, first thing, to look around slowly and say, "Nothing I see in this room (on this street, from this window, in this place) means anything."
Later in this chapter we will be taught that the Holy Spirit will replace fear with love and error with truth and in this growing awareness we will replace our dream of separation with the fact of unity. T-12.1.10:5
I find that I get hooked and become reactive and I am learning to take a deep breath and back off and ask myself, "How would Love have me respond?" And as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, "I turn it over to my Higher Power" or "Let go and let God." I really got a good laugh at myself when I read in paragraph five, verse 8 where it is written, "The Holy Spirit does not need your help in interpreting motivation, but you do need His." Amen!
And so the task in decision making is to stop and ask "What would God (Love) have me do?" Things are not usually the way our interpretation would have us believe they are. In fact, if we are humble enough to realize it, our interpretations are often wrong because of our prejudicial filters leading us to see only what we want to see and excluding contradictory data to decrease our cognitive dissonance.
From an emotional distance watch the meaning you make of things. Is it meaning made from Love or from fear? The Course will tell us as we move on in this chapter than these are our only choices: Love or Fear. When we have the presence of mind in our spiritual life we are consistently asked to choose.
I am a psychotherapist. I have been a Psychiatric Social Worker for 47 years. I am semi retired but still see clients in my office for psychiatric and social problems. Once I have established a trusting relationship, I sometimes ask my client, when it seems appropriate, "What is your interior spiritual life like?"
When I first considered asking clients this question, I was hesitant, because it is not really the job of a therapist to ask such questions about religion and spirituality. We usually stick to the medical, social, and psychological concerns of the client. Further, it seemed to me to be an extremely intimate question and I didn't want to intrude into areas where my questions would be unwelcome. To my relief, I have always gotten a thoughtful response to the question and rarely has a client questioned what I mean or why I am asking.
Our spiritual life seems, in our contemporary society, to be almost a taboo subject and yet a topic that people want to talk about with someone they trust and feel comfortable with. "Religion" has too often become a commodity and churches are trying to compete in the market place to sell potential customers something. Spirituality is not a commodity but an awareness about life, a way of living that gives our lives meaning and joy.
And so the question is "What is your interior spiritual life like?"
Welcome to Notes On The Spiritual Life. There is a growing group of people according to the Pew Poll on religion which notes the growing percentage of "nones," The "nones" are the people who say they are spiritual but not religious. It is a puzzle what people mean by this and so I have been exploring this idea of the spiritual life and have been keeping notes. And then I wondered why I keep them to myself, perhaps it would be better to share because I can't get to heaven alone. It teaches in A Course In Miracles that we all have to get to heaven together because we all are part of the one.
A Course In Miracles uses the term Atonement a lot. In fact, it is a key concept of the Course. Atonement, At-one-ment, I define as when everybody loves everybody all the time. This is huge and we have a long way to go. It is with awareness of the goal that we can speed up the time it takes until time is no longer necessary because we all will have arrived.
Please comment as we all need your help.
Today is 2/24/16 and the we have less than a week left to consider the theme for February which is decision making. I will get some stuff up here on this theme before the end of the month. The theme for next month is salvation so if you have any material for this theme please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.